When I was a kid, I’d ask my parents what their life was like growing up. I heard their words and knew their world was quite different. I never fully understood how much things had changed.
They listened to the radio, which was programmed like television… well, like television used to be when it was dominated by scripted programs. “We used our imaginations,” my mother would say. I’m sure they did. That kind of radio didn’t stand a chance when TV came along.
I was reading an article in the paper tonight which, reminded me of those conversations with my folks and made me think of how I’d answer that question today. How has the world changed since my childhood?
A short list of things that didn’t exist, or weren’t available to me:
- Cable TV
- Remote Control
- Affordable long distance phone service
- Affordable airfare
- Any digital media
- Touchtone phones
- Seatbelts/Padded Dash/Crumple Zones
- Fruit in the winter
- Single Serve Bottled Water
- McDonalds, etc
- Family safe/friendly Times Square
- Answering machines/Voicemail
- Credit Cards
I looked around the room while I typed that. So many of the things I’m looking at were unavailable or unaffordable to most people.
That’s an important point not to be missed. Many things that did exist have been democratized by sharply falling prices. Nothing is more amazing than what’s happened to long distance rates.
In 1950, New York-LA, 5 minute call: $3.70, 10 minute call: $6.70. Tack on inflation and New York-LA, 5 minute call in 1950, in 2003 dollars: $28.19, 10 minute call: $51.04!
Businesses needed workers a lot more back then. Workers are expensive. Bosses looked to replace as many as they could. They couldn’t. We weren’t in competition with China. Hell, we weren’t speaking to China. International shipping was a nightmare.
My parents made their younger years sound romantic. That’s not what I see when I look back. There’s little of anything I’d want reverted to its original state. Today is better than yesterday.
People are scared of terrorism today, but we were scared of the Soviets and “the bomb.” Are the potential consequences really any different? Do they hate us any less?
I don’t know where the next changes will come from, but there’s no doubt more innovation is on the way. The long term future is unpredictable. Maybe that’s what makes it so much fun.